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Resume Science - Part 4: Common Mistakes

As professional recruiters, we see a lot of resumes – and are often asked for guidance or help in crafting one that will draw attention. This is our fourth installment of our resume series. If you are just joining the series – start with Part 1.

Today we are going to discuss the resume formatting mistakes that could keep you from getting the job you want by keeping you from getting to the interview.

Here are the top 10 mistakes:

  1. Getting too fancy with the format. Unless you are applying to a marketing job where graphic design skills are important, keep to the most common formats. When you apply online, most applicant tracking systems (ATS) will parse the information into your candidate record. Non-standard templates (like the ones Microsoft Word suggest) will often confuse the ATS and your information will not port over.

  2. Borders and lines. Putting a border around your resume or a thick line under your contact information might make it pop in your mind, but it can often result in an error message in the ATS instead of your resume. No resume = not searchable = no interview.

  3. It's too long. 1-2 pages is all you get depending on your experience level. A well-done executive-level resume can still get the point across in two pages.

  4. Too much white space. Having dates in separate columns might look good but consumes too much real estate on a two-page resume that you could be using to sell yourself.

  5. It's too busy. The opposite of too much white space is jamming too much onto the page. Going crazy with font sizes or margins to cram it all in will not win. Try to find a balance.

  6. Everything, all at once. It’s OK to have a general resume that covers what you can do – but you should have versions that only highlight relevant information from your background for a specific job. For example, if your skill set includes business development & project management, you should have a resume version for each. A hiring manager might not care that you are a utility player and will glaze over on the parts they don’t find relevant.

  7. Not having enough key words. Most resumes in an ATS will be subject to a key word search before being reviewed. Your resume should have many of the relevant key words from a job description.

  8. Acronyms only. You and the hiring manager might both know what a “LSSBB” is but the ATS does not. If the HR team is searching for “Lean Six Sigma” or “Black Belt” and you just have the acronym, your resume will not end up in the search results – likewise if you have it long-form and someone searching resumes for the acronym, it won’t pull.

  9. Not having software systems. Your resume should have relevant software you have used (you do not have to be an expert in them). And along with our theme of “the ATS is not as smart as Google” – while you might have “MS Office” on your resume, if they are doing a search for Excel or Access and it is not on your resume, it will not show in the results.

  10. Not enough sizzle. Like we talked about in our earlier installments in the series, having only the “what” you have done without the “wow” your resume will not stand out in the sea of other applicants.

As you can tell, most of our formatting tips involve getting past an applicant tracking system. It’s safe to assume at this point that the humans in the equation are still smarter than the ATS. So keep it simple. At some point, maybe the algorithms will be able to spit out perfect matches, but we are not there yet. The process is wonky, but understanding how it works can help you get to the interview.

Speaking of which, in our next installment of Resume Science, we’ll cover the cover letter – and how it can help you in your search for the next job.

Like what you read? We appreciate likes and shares on your to your networks or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

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